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Tips for Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

Photo Credit: August de Richelieu/Pexels

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Holiday blues. Overeating and overdrinking. Family drama. The stress of failing to meet unrealistic expectations. It’s no wonder depression spikes during the holidays. 

The way we approach our health in November and December can make all the difference in our happiness, and in our physical and mental well-being. During the holidays, it’s important to focus on what is best for our bodies and our souls. When we do this, we stand a better chance of staying positive and overlooking minor annoyances. 

This applies to everything from our physical self-care to our emotional and mental well-being. Let’s start with the physical. Registered dietician Patty Martin, who owns Sugar Land Nutrition in Houston, Texas, advises the following:

Don’t Go to Parties Hungry

You feel like you’re doing the right thing by saving your calories for the party, but then you overindulge and feel guilty and bloated after. It’s better to eat a healthy meal and fuel your body properly before attending any social gatherings. That way, you can sample without stuffing. Be especially cautious of planting yourself in front of party food. Put a few bites on your plate and walk away so you don’t fall victim to mindless eating. Your body will thank you.

Apply the Three-Bite Rule

It’s a fact that all you need to truly enjoy food is three bites. So enjoy the pumpkin pie and the Christmas cookies, but in moderation. You will feel like you had a great holiday treat — and you did! — but you won’t experience the inevitable sugar high followed by the crash. 

Sneak in Exercise Whenever You Can

Endorphin highs are real, and we really need them when grandma has been with us a week or Uncle Jack is telling one of his long-winded stories. If you feel guilty leaving everyone to go to the gym, find ways to be active at home. Take walks, take the stairs, or take a bike ride around the neighborhood. A little exercise is better than none and will make you feel much better.

Once you have a plan in place for your physical health, concentrate on what else you can do to make the holidays a more happy, relaxing time. I work with parents and families to help them create a peaceful dynamic, and here are the tips I find most helpful:

Try to Give Everyone the Benefit of the Doubt

Some family members may not be able to share Christmas with you. Some people may seem snippy when, really, they are just tired. As ridiculous as that gift may seem to you, tell yourself the giver had good intentions when choosing it. And honestly, does it really matter anyway? I used to get angry with a family member who never pitched in with meal prep or cleanup, then I realized that she was trying not to step on my toes or get in my way. If you shift your thinking to the positive, it will change your entire outlook on the people around you. 

Accept That Some Plans May Fall Through

We all want the perfect Hallmark Christmas, but few of us get it. That’s because in real life, people don’t perform to our expectations, the stars rarely align, and our best-laid plans often don’t pan out. Be flexible and understand that you can’t control all the variables. Usually, there are multiple dynamics at play, from various family members’ schedules to work parties and trips to the airport. Many factors are out of our hands, and while that’s hard to accept, we are all happier when we learn to roll with it.

Keep Your Traditions

I never knew how important our holiday traditions were to our kids until I tried changing them. You would have thought I had a plan to single-handedly destroy Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grown kids made it quite clear that they not only look forward to our traditions, they count on them. Whether it’s working a puzzle together, playing a favorite game, opening gifts at a certain time, or eating a particular meal, traditions provide a level of comfort that can’t be measured and are always treasured.

Be Thoughtful When It Comes to Others

Most families are multigenerational. They can range from small children to elderly grandparents. When you ensure there is something for everyone and no one is being overlooked, you will feel you have done everything you can to make others happy. So even when things don’t go quite as planned, you can fall back on that knowledge. This does not require a big, over-the-top gesture. For instance, my daughter is gluten-free, so I swap out traditional ingredients to accommodate her diet and she is most appreciative. My mother loves Christmas home tours, so I make sure I purchase tickets in advance and we both have something to look forward to during her visit. It’s the small things that bring big appreciation and make you feel good about yourself. 

Perhaps the best advice for a peaceful holiday is to cut yourself, and everybody else, some slack. Relax into the holidays, and with any luck, everyone will take their cues from you. 


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